Update: Crew confirmed kidnapped after vessel attack in Cotonou

Nigerian Navy sail to intercept pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. Credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

The eight crew members missing from the Tommi Ritscher, attacked at Cotonou anchorage on 20 April, have been kidnapped, confirms security consultants Dryad Global.

The Nigerian special forces boarded the Portuguese flagged containership following reports of an attack by an unknown number of assailants in a speedboat. The Nigerian special forces and Benin naval personnel involved in the operation found no perpetrators onboard when they freed the remaining 11 crew members from the citadel.

It was previously reported that the assailants were left onboard the vessel, as the speedboat carrying them sailed off as a Naval patrol vessel neared the containership. Dryad Global stated that this was a failure in reporting and that the eight crew members were kidnapped in the early stages of the attack.

“The perpetrators and eight crew members were at some point able to disembark the vessel and escape,” commented Dryad Global.

“It is assessed as highly likely that the perpetrators originated from within Nigeria, in particular the southern Delta region. The perpetrators are likely to have been aware that Benin had taken the decision to cease placing guards on board vessels at anchor as a result of COVID-19 and were aware of the limited established security presence within the area,” said Dryad Global.

The Gulf of Guinea remains a piracy hotspot in 2020, making up 17 out of the 22 crew kidnappings globally in the first 3 months of the year, according to a report from the International Maritime Bureau. The kidnappings took place over three incidents; the MSC Talia F while on route to Lome, Togo, in March; the Alpine Penelope off the coast of Cotonou in February, and finally the Ambrika, off the coast of Nigeria, in January.